After serving four terms over 14 years, Ward 8 Councillor Ben Henderson says it’s time to step aside and make room for new energy on Edmonton city council.
“I have greatly enjoyed my time serving the people of Edmonton and residents of the old Ward 4, and since 2010 Ward 8, but the time has come to explore new pursuits,” he said Tuesday when announcing he was not running for re-election.
Henderson said while at times it feels like just yesterday he arrived at city hall, he also recognizes how much the city has changed since 2007. He was pretty sure the last election would be his last — even at that time — however Henderson says he waited until now to make it official, just in case he didn’t accomplish all his goals.
“I feel really good about what I’ve done. I think I got just about everything done that I wanted to do. There’s a few things left over, but it’s time for somebody else,” he said to Global News on Tuesday.
When asked if he has any advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps, Henderson said being a successful councillor requires balance.
“Care about your people. Listen to your people. Have the guts and the courage to show leadership as well though,” he said.
“It’s also about doing your homework and understanding and really digging into what the hard choices are for the city, in order to make sure we continue to thrive. So there’s no avoiding that. It’s about a combination of all of those things.”
Over his time on council, he’s served on numerous city committees, including the utilities committee which he has chaired since 2013.
He was also the lead for council initiatives on housing, public engagement, poverty elimination, winter cities, active transportation and energy transition.
One of the specific endeavours he took great pride in was pushing the winter city initiative to encourage residents to enjoy the outdoors year-round. Henderson has been the chair of the Winter Cities Strategy and Implementation Committee since 2008.
“Our city sees just as many festivals now in winter as in summer and thousands of people now enjoy Zoominescence, Deep Freeze, Ice on Whyte, Le Canoe Volant and the substantially expanded Silver Skate. They are joined by numerous community events across our city,” Henderson said in a statement.
He said he’s also proud of his work to improve the city’s public engagement practices, and for being an advocate for active transportation modes such as cycling and walking by working to expand infrastructure like bike lanes.
“The significant increase in those making the choice to travel by active means is directly attributable to the significant separated grid that we have solidly established in the core of our city and are now expanding outwards for all Edmontonians.”
Henderson said it was never a fight against vehicles, but “we needed to find a way to make it safe for everyone.”
Henderson is also proud of the work he did to help with ending poverty in Edmonton.
“Although it is still an uphill battle, the commitment to deal with the root causes of intergenerational poverty, rather than just to apply Band-Aids to the wounds of poverty, gives us a real shot at making a difference in an age-old challenge,” he said.
Henderson also serves nationally as chair of the Green Municipal Fund, and is an Edmonton city council representative at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“Much as I would like to continue to push the city forward from my seat on council on areas like these, it is time for someone else to take on those challenges.
“I have every belief that a decade and a half from now they will be able to look back with just as much satisfaction for what they have accomplished in continuing to move our city forward.”
Henderson did not say what he plans to do next.
This year, the boundaries of Edmonton’s wards are changing, along with the names. The numbers will be replaced with Indigenous names.
Ward 8 will become “Papastew” (pah-pah-stay-oh), after a highly respected leader of the papaschase Band #136 who signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1877. “Papastew” translates to large woodpecker.
The nomination period for those interesting in running for council, mayor or school board trustee is open.
Aspiring candidates have until Sept. 20 to file their nomination papers and pay the deposit. Candidates for mayor must pay a deposit of $500. Candidates for councillor and school board trustee must pay a deposit of $100.
Edmonton’s municipal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 18.